Vermont Court Records
This entry was originally written by Scott Andrew Bartley and Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Historically, the major purpose of the county system in Vermont was the operation of the county courts, which recorded deeds for unorganized towns, levied county taxes, heard civil and criminal matters, and granted divorces and naturalizations.
Before Vermont became independent (1777), New York and New Hampshire both claimed some county jurisdiction over Vermont land. For this reason, New York and New Hampshire records must be consulted even up to 1791.
Beginning in 1777, each county had one county court that heard both civil and criminal matters. The state supreme court served an appellate function. In 1967 district courts were added, covering territorial units within the counties. District court jurisdiction is not exclusively over criminal cases; it may also hear some civil cases. In 1974, the county courts were renamed superior courts, with countywide jurisdiction over all matters previously entertained by the county courts and not covered by district courts. Beginning in 1990, the superior court functions involving family matters (divorce, child custody, etc.) were transferred to one statewide family court with divisions of that court operating in each of the counties.
The Vermont Public Records Division now has microfilms of county court records for Bennington, Chittenden, and Windsor counties before 1825, with the only index available typed alphabetically by plaintiff for each book. In early records, debts are the major subject of litigation in the courts. The division is continuing the microfilming of all the county court records and has completed Addison and Washington counties, although no comparable index exists for these. The division houses many of the original early records, sent for preservation by the county courts. Others remain in the county court offices. Check with the division for updated holdings.